Tracking Topps Chrome Update Profit and Loss – Baseball Card Investing Exercise

Over the past couple months there has been heated debate within the trading card hobby about investing in cards. Is it a hobby, or is it an investment? Can you collect baseball cards as a hobby, and still invest in cards on the side? To the latter question I say yes, but that’s an argument for another day.


Investing in baseball cards is nothing new. I have found newspaper articles regarding investing in baseball cards dating back to the 1970’s. There are also some really cool info graphs out there from the junk era, like this one.

Before I began the One Million Cubs Project, I was more of a card investor than collector. I bought hobby cases of cards to rip and flip. I tracked my progress for a six-month period and there was profit. It was enough profit to buy one or two hobby boxes. It also became a lot of work, and opening boxes became more of a chore than fun. Gone were the days of sitting down in front of a big game on TV and taking the time to rip open a new Topps release. Then I started COLLECTING again and the hobby is fun again.


There is a place for both collectors and investors. Nothing wrong with being a collector only, or a ripper and flipper looking for a profit. A couple weeks ago the Target exclusive 2019 Topps Chrome Update was released. In all honesty, it was a product I decided to skip and not buy any boxes. However, I started seeing posts on the Blowout Forums of live cards. That coupled with a collector in a nearby city asking me if I had seen any in the store I took to eBay. The only live cards were from someone I know here in Madison. So, I made a trip to Target after work. Sure enough, a dozen hanger packs of Chrome Update were freshly stocked and they were all mine.

But you said you weren’t buying any Topps Chrome Update! Yes, that’s correct, but my trading card investor instincts kicked in and you can make some decent money when you are one of the first on the market. Plus, I found the hanger packs with the pink refractors (pretty popular cards), so I knew I could make some money back.

In an exercise to potentially turn me off of chasing retail releases I decided to track my profits and losses on the 12 hanger packs of Topps Chrome Update I purchased. I ripped all 12 packs within the 24-hour period before most markets had seen them stocked.


About the break: the odds are really long on 2019 Topps Chrome Update. Really long. The odds are so long that the only “hit” I received was a Harold Ramirez refractor numbered /250. It seemed like in past years (without referencing past odds) this amount of packs would have yielded multiple refractors, something like one every three or four packs.

The pink refractors on the other hand…definitely hit the goods here. I pulled two Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and one each of Pete Alonso and Fernando Tatis Jr.

To corner the market, I threw the Guerrero’s and Tatis on a 24-hour auction for an additional one dollar insert fee on eBay. Everything else was listed on five-day or seven-day auctions. I listed all of the pink refractors save a couple that were dealt in trades. I also listed a few inserts and the Ronald Acuna rookie cup base card. I did not list the Harold Ramirez refractor deciding instead to hold on to it in hopes he gets hot next season as opposed to selling now for a couple bucks.

Below is a profits/loss spreadsheet I used to track my progress. I use micropayments on Paypal (5% of total plus a nickel each transaction), so this makes all of the one and two dollar transactions worth listing. Additionally, I did not take into account cost of envelopes or ink. Only a couple of the items were shipped in a bubble mailer as most went plain white envelope (PWE). This is a video I created on how to ship baseball cards safely in a plain white envelope (PWE). I buy top loaders used and in bulk at an average cost of two-three cents, and purchase penny sleeves brand new. However, I do acquire many penny sleeves and top loaders as part of collections I purchase. Using these facts, I came up with five cents on supplies (top loaders and penny sleeves).


With most of the base cards and inserts (and of course the five Cubs I pulled), I lost about $32 on the 12 hanger packs. That’s not too bad, but my luck on the pink refractors certainly saved this break. Not to mention being among the early listers for this product.

The break was a lot of fun, and putting my profits and losses on paper opened my eyes a little. Opening packs and boxes is certainly a gamble…but it’s also a lot of fun. Break responsibly.

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